In my mind, back in the late 80s, a few things were fact. I was gonna win Wimbledon, Elle McPherson was seriously hot, and Dan Reed Network were gonna be huge.
It seemed the Rolling Stones, Def Leppard and Bon Jovi thought the same, taking DRN out on their summer tours. We all thought that their blend of rock, funk and pop was a sure-fire hit. Sadly this wasn’t the case, and after their third album they abandoned their plans for world domination. Now, 20 years after splitting up, the planets have realigned and they’re back, testing the waters here in Europe. Two questions remain: can they still cut it, and is their music outdated? Dan himself has made several low-key returns (including a tour of his superb solo album Signal Fire), but what of the others? As I enter the almost sold-out show I spot familiar faces everywhere, most a bit wrinklier and greyer, but rock stars and critics have turned up in droves. The typical conversation goes straight to: “Can you name a better band that should have made it?” And no one can. Perhaps Pete Jupp from FM sums it up best, saying: “Back in the day they just blew our minds on record and live.” It seems strange that they start the show with the mid-paced Cruise Together, until I realise it’s a showcase for the band’s talent, with guitarist Brion James and bassman Melvin Brannon going toe-to-toe up and down the frets, showing us that they haven’t been living on a central American coral reef for all these years. (Actually, Brion’s been doing exactly that, playing with his bar band on the Honduran island of Roatan.) Neither has lost his touch, and it quickly becomes apparent that these two players are virtuosos in every sense of the word. Song after song, they hit the mark. Forgot To Make Her Mine, Baby Now I (from my personal favourite album and their last, The Heat) and then Rainbow Child. It feels like a big private party, everyone happily singing along to every word and the band having a great laugh with each other and the crowd. At one stage a fan yells out for Tamin’ The Wild Nights, which Dan admits they haven’t rehearsed or played for over 20 years. This doesn’t stop them trying, and they succeed. The crowd are hysterical as they play Mix It Up and Doin’ The Love Thing from memory, though only a couple of verses of each, as if to whet our appetite. Stronger Than Steel, Seven Sisters Road and Get To You finish the set off on a rockin’ note, only for the band to encore with fan favourite Tiger In A Dress and a crowd-and-band singalong version of Long Way To Go. Most of these songs seem timeless, and only a couple of times does the odd bit of rapping or a keyboard flourish from the evergreen Blake Sakamoto remind me that these songs were written in the late 80s/early 90’s. Lets face it: if you mix the timeless sound of thumping drums from Dan Pred (it’s hard to believe he’s the only one that gave up music altogether during their hiatus), bass and lead guitars that are some of the best around, Reed hitting every note perfectly, catchy, singalong songs that make you wanna dance (or even share a smile with the guy next to you covered in tats), a few laughs and a happy, adoring crowd, it adds up to one of the best gigs I have ever seen. A mention from Reed of a possible new record and cassette (no digital download) has us all laughing but hoping that the world can finally fully appreciate such talent. In the end, I can’t think of a better way to spend a balmy night out in London, Elle McPherson or not.